Recommended: Jeff Cosgrove/Frank Kimbrough/Martin Wind – “Conversations With Owls”

April 13, 2015


Jeff Cosgrove - "Conversations with Owls"Conversations With Owls is a pleasantly subdued, avant-garde trio session from drummer Jeff Cosgrove, pianist Frank Kimbrough and bassist Martin Wind.  The melodic dissonance and rhythmic decay have an insidious presence, and they need not be a primary component of a particular expression or passage for their presence to be felt.  At times, on its face, the music comes off as a straight-forward modern piano trio recording, but the trio reveals the music’s true nature in subtle, delightfully restrained ways.

Yes, opening track “The Owls” is a peaceful song, but that serenity comes with the price of a pervasively ominous tension… the sense that the tranquility could be obliterated at any moment.  “Stacks of Stars” sees that threat finally emerge, but the downpour of notes and beats is at least as beautiful as the peacefulness that preceded it.

Their dreamy rendition of “I Loves You Porgy” hovers just out of reach, adding a touch of suspense to accent its resplendent beauty.  “Excitable Voices” is one long wakeful fit of activity, and “Forest Hunters” burrows deeper into the dissonance with bursts of controlled ferocity.

The trio’s inspired take on “My Favorite Things” is the album’s highlight.  Subdued, and only allowing the melody to poke out occasionally, this rendition shines light on a facet of the original rarely revealed… the prevailing sadness and fear that overshadows everything.

The album closes things out with “The Shimmer,” which is an untidy bundle of rolling motion, but shaped by an innate tunefulness that keeps the song corralled and headed in a common direction.

A real vibrancy to this session, one that evokes plenty of imagery and intrigue.  It’s also an album that tends to resonate with increasing strength as time allows its subtleties and nuance to becomes fully revealed.  Highly recommended.

Your album personnel:  Jeff Cosgrove (drums), Frank Kimbrough (piano) and Martin Wind (bass).

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

This album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from Maryland.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon


Recommended: Mario Pavone – “Blue Dialect”

March 23, 2015


Mario Pavone - "Blue Dialect"Mario Pavone has a new album out.  The veteran bassist can always be relied upon to present challenging music that directly engages the listener, refusing to allow the ear to fall into a state of passive listening.  Blue Dialect keeps that reputation intact.  Adopting a classic piano trio formation, Pavone is joined by drummer Tyshawn Sorey and pianist Matt Mitchell.

There is a Monk-like tunefulness to much of this music, with a melody that bounces crisply along the surface of unconventional and aggressive rhythms.  Hints of a hurried swing cut between percussive attacks that skitter right along with a rapid-fire pulse or those where each of the trio members express the tempo through their own point of view before coalescing near a song’s conclusion.

There aren’t any sit-back-and-bliss moments on this recording.  Tempos keep to a brisk pace and melodies are to the point.  The compositions provide a nice framework for dialog, and improvisations don’t stray too far from the pack.

A solid recording from an artist whose catalog you should spend some time exploring.

Your album personnel:  Mario Pavone (double bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums) and Matt Mitchell (piano).

Released on Clean Feed Records.

Jazz from Connecticut.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Recommended: Art Hirahara – “Libations & Meditations”

February 10, 2015


Art Hirahara - "Libations & Meditations"There’s two things in play here for why Libations & Meditations is such a strong album.  First off, Art Hirahara situates his melodies at the center of each song’s universe.  Those melodies are expertly crafted and supremely radiant… a melodic beauty that resonates strongly at any speed.  And that leads into the second quality of this album’s success:  The trio of pianist Hirahara, bassist Linda Oh and drummer John Davis are a seamless rhythmic unit, their intentions spread out like a map so that no matter how far and wide they travel, it’s simple to follow along.  This, in addition to the North Star quality of each song’s melody is what makes this such a winning album.

The bubbling personality of up-tempo tunes is hard not to fall for.  Hirahara leads out with the quirky “With Two Ice Cubes” and the speedy “D.A.Y.” is adorned with a series of missives and asides to keep the ear on its toes even as its attention stays riveted on the tightly focused stream of melody.  The jaunty “Only Child” has a cadence made for a Sunday afternoon stroll through the park and is just as affecting as the melodically headstrong “Be Bim Bop” and “Bop Bim Be,” which offers up a rare instance of free, random motion before it transforms into something structurally straight-ahead.

However, the most striking album tracks are those where the trio eases off the gas pedal.  The surging “Father’s Song” wears its heart on its sleeve, and it’s why the dramatics that mark the song ring with sincerity.  It’s a similar effect with “Big Country,” but here, the melodic drama is paired with just the right amount of restraint, pulling it back in for a graceful landing.  There’s also the graceful elegance of “Karatachi No Hana,” a quiet solo piece.  “Dead Man Posed” exudes those same qualities, but gets expressed with greater emotion.

The album ends with “Nereids and Naiads,” a song that smolders with a magnetic quality, its embers growing brighter as the song approaches its conclusion.  But even when the trio lights the song up bright in the home stretch, the melody never loses its comforting glow, radiating the strong beauty and powerful dialog that reflect the album in its entirety.

Your album personnel:  Art Hirahara (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and John Davis (drums).

Released on Posi-Tone Records.

Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Available at:  Amazon


Recommended: Aaron Goldberg – “The Now”

January 20, 2015


Aaron Goldberg - "The Now"For what amounts to a straight-ahead modern piano trio recording, The Now doesn’t exactly come packaged in a neat bundle.  But considering that the inspiration for the newest from pianist Aaron Goldberg is a respect and appreciation for the transitory nature of improvisational creativity and the need to exist in the present moment to best express it, this relative lack of cohesion may not only be intentional, but also necessary.  With his longtime trio of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland at his side, Goldberg carves out a set of tunes that share some common bonds, but stand alone, each to themselves.

Album-opener “Trocando em Miudos” is absolutely resonant.  It expresses itself patiently and peacefully and emanates a powerful warmth from within.  It’s one of three Brazilian compositions on the album, and Goldberg gives each its own voice.

The simmering “Triste Bahia da Guanabara” and the introspective “Wind in the Night” show that the sublime can take many forms.  “E-Land” gets back to the resonance of the opener, but kicks up the tempo a bit.  This, along with slow boil of Toninho Horta’s “Francisca,” are emblematic of they way Goldberg keeps switching things up to make what might have been common stand completely apart.

The upbeat “Yoyo” is all about the sunny attitude.  Goldberg’s renditions of Charlie Parker’s “Perhaps” and Konitz/Marsh’s “Background Music” honor the originals with chipper tempos and a melodic playfulness, while also drawing emphasis to the individual motions of each that speak to the heart of the matter.  The exciting “One’s a Crowd” keeps the pulse rate up and finds a way to express both structural composure and improvisational effusiveness.

The album ends with the somber “One Life.”  Guest Kurt Rosenwinkel brings that same potent mix of melancholy and combustion that lent so much personality to his involvement with the Brian Blade Fellowship.  It’s an evocative way to end an album that doesn’t limit the ways it chooses to express itself.

Your album personnel:  Aaron Goldberg (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland (drums) and guest:  Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar).

Released on Sunnyside Records.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon CD/MP3 | eMusic


Recommended: Stanton Moore – “Conversations”

January 12, 2015


Stanton Moore - "Conversations"It’s a nice surprise to see Stanton Moore put out a straight-ahead jazz recording.  Though best known for being a founding member of jam and funk groups Galactic & Garage A Trois, the drummer has done a fair bit of traveling to other genres.  It makes sense that the Metairie native would eventually choose a project that swings and bops and makes a home in New Orleans blues.  It’s a logical decision, really.  Conversations is going to leave many listeners wishing that he’s made the decision far sooner.

Opening track “Lauren Z” is the immediate evidence that Moore knows how to emphasize the drums, both with solos and fills, without it being so showy as to put everything else in the background.  Loud voices in a room full of dialog are only bad when they distract the attention from everything but their presence.  Moore is able to develop a chatter that blends right in with the stream of things.

Second track “Carnival” is no less chipper or lively than the album opener, but it rides the melody rather than utilizing it for fuel, and that’s why it moves with an appealing ease that contrasts nicely with the strong propulsion of the album opener.

Their rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin'” is presented as a classic blues reminiscent of piano trio recordings from Red Garland’s Prestige/Riverside days.  Nice and easy and full of feeling… a display of how the blues can be an expression of joy no matter how troubled the times.  “In the Keyhole” is no different, though its motion and touch of funk is more reminiscent of a Horace Silver hard bop tune.

“Waltz for All Souls” is the rare moment where Moore’s trio slows things down and breathes with patience.  The soulfulness of the tune snaps right into place with the rest of the album, and the decreased rate of speed falls right into the flow of the album.

But the heart of the album beats in swing time, and the sunny warmth and joyful effusiveness of tracks like “Magnolia Triangle” and “Paul Barbarin’s Second Line” are what this terrific album is all about.

Your album personnel:  Stanton Moore (drums), David Torkanowsky (piano) and James Singleton (bass).

Released on Royal Potato Family.

Jazz from the New Orleans scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon

Or purchase directly from the artist.